Nolan Brothers Tribute

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1964: The Nolan Bros. RAMROD Dodge. Chuck Baad/Cruisin’ Times photo

 

The Nolan Brothers shop was well known around the Cleveland, Ohio area for their elaborate custom paint work. My own 1969 AMX wore its battered Nolan Bros. paint job until 1985, but I still have the signature trunk lid hanging in my shop. According to partner Bobby Nolan, “We painted so many cars from 1966 until 1983 in our various shops that it’s hard to remember who they belonged to, but you are in luck as I remembered your car immediately. When we opened our shop on Chatfield around 1970 an older guy named Paul Prehauser started hanging out, he was fascinated with my art work and stopped in all the time. Paul was helping cart cars and set them up at the car shows that had started to happen at local malls etc. My AMX, Erdelac’s AMX, some of the funny cars and Vettes we had done. At this time Paul decided he needed a car to show, and found a low mileage, mint AMX which was yours. We painted it like your pictures show and he took it to all the shows with our cars. I know he hardly ever drove it. Keep in mind in the early days of car shows none of the undercarriages mattered that much, mainly just the paint and overall cleanliness of the car. Over the years and the different shops that we had, Paul would stop in from time to time but I eventually lost track of him and the car.”

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Paul’s (later my) 1969 AMX at the 1975 Cleveland Auto-Rama
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The ’57 Chevy which can be seen behind the AMX
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A second photo from the Cleveland Auto-Rama shows another Nolan Bros car, Vic Miskow’s Dodge Demon with the same AMX visible over the front fender
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The Nolan Bros. signature trunk lid survives to this day
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        Detail of left side quarter panel

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My 1969 AMX at a car show in 1984 and at Dragway 42 the same year

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Bobby Nolan continues, “We hooked up with (Cleveland AMC dealer) Joe Erdelac who also was fascinated with art and loved the mural painting on cars. I painted all kinds of Hornets and Gremlins for him to sell by just adding stripes and small murals to the new car paint jobs. He put me, my wife, sister-in-law, and my brother into AMXs, Hornets, and Matador X cars. 

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“Joe had AMC produce a special hot rod 401 AMX with a Pierre Cardin interior for us to paint that was the first car ever to be put in an art museum. It was painted in heavy blues of chamilion murano pearls and covered in murals. The murals on the hood were butterfly people and were copied by 7UP for a TV commercial. I painted it, modified the front and rear spoilers and also put bullet mirrors on it from a 1969 Mach l Mustang, did chrome plating to the valve covers and air cleaner, and last of all put on a set of dual exhausts that were store bought at the Midwest speed store, they hung down under the car and rumbled when you let off the gas. I don’t know what happend to this car. This AMX was the style with the humped front fenders and the large trunk spoiler with the indented key hole in the middle, which I removed and made the trunk solenoid operated from the driver’s compartment. It also had a front spoiler that I modified to fit in a more out front forward position.

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Bobby Nolan’s wife poses with the Erdelac AMX

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The Erdelac AMX had two different hoods and rear spoilers which could be swapped depending on where the car would be displayed. According to Bobby Nolan the hood with the butterfly people was considered too “artsy” for use at school events or display at the dealership, so the other one would be installed.

Thanks go out to Robert Markowitz for the following Javelin photos.

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A big thanks to Mike Spina who sent along the following circa 1971 photos taken on the Joe Erdelac lot.

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“Joe Erdelac was one of AMC’s bigger dealers on the east coast with a lot of factory influence. I even  went to some factory sponsored, traveling seminars he put on at high schools and air brushed murals on a trunk lid for at least six high schools in Cleveland, Akron and other cities. He had a guy full time on his payroll (or AMC’s payroll) to do this. I  had to give this up because  I couldn’t leave the shop to do this all the time. He fazed this out and his guy in charge of this took his AMX and a few new cars to all the major auto shows. Erdelac had some kind of problem with this promoter of his who I think began to promote himself more than the cars. I still did the stripe and trunk mural Hornets and Gremlins for Erdelac to sell, but not as frequently. Another dealer on Lorain saw what Erdelac was doing with this custom stuff, I don’t remember which Mercury or Ford dealer it was, but we painted some mid-engine Pantera cars for them. I liked all the AMC activity at Nolan Bros. but I liked my Shelby GT500 Mustang also.

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Bobby Nolan’s 1970 Shelby GT500

 

“A year or so after all this show car activity with Joe Erdelac, he called me and gave me the idea to make a prototype Hurst AMX from a 1971 Javelin that my wife hardly ever drove. He provided the seats and spoilers from his parts counter, and we even removed the vinyl roof and changed the rear tail lights and tail light panel to make it look like a 1974. I did it in gold and black, really neat. Erdelac loved it, so did everyone. This was almost the Hurst AMX that would’ve been the same as a Hurst Olds, only sold in AMC dealerships throughout the country. It may have made me and Joe Erdelac very rich. After the car was finished it went through a major professional photo shoot, then Joe called me up to his office and was telling me that AMC was not making any more Javelins. My wife and I drove the Hurst AMX into the late ’70s as a everyday ride until it rusted out. Someone bought it for the spoilers and I never saw it again. I remember all of the modifications on the Hurst project, but the fact it was not going to happen didn’t concern me that much because by then Nolan Bros. was so well known from the car shows and drag racing that I was overworked and overwhelmed trying to get all these cars done that were coming in from all over.

 

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The “Jolly Green Giant Killer” Mustang of Chuck Baad is shown here in 1972. Chuck is a photographer who is credited with promoting the Nolan Bros shop by continuously displaying his Mustang at various car shows in the Cleveland area. The “Killer” was a multiple award winner from the early 1970’s.

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1969 Dodge Super Bee

The 1969 Dodge Super Bee of Don Maddix with its early Nolan Brothers paint job (above, HOT ROD Magazine photo). Below is a current shot of the car, it still looks the same!

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Mopar Collector’s Guide cover car, July 2015

 

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The Ratical One is another early job from the Nolan Brothers shop. This 1969 COPO Camaro drag car was painted in 1970 then stored from 1974 until 2009. Unfortunately this car has reportedly been repainted back to a stock configuration.

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A Nolan Brothers painted Camaro photographed recently after decades of storage

 

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Olds Cutlass hood with custom paint by Nolan Bros.

 

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Here is the Corvette of Keith Evans from 1973. Part of his indoor car show displays included the use of live exotic cats like the leopard shown here. Can you imagine seeing something like this at a car show today?!

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“From 1970 to around 1978, my friend Bob Brandt lived in California and was Don “the snake” Prudhomme’s crew chief. He used the shop on Chatfield as his east coast base in between weekend races. Over the years he brought every major drag racer in the states back from Don’s match races to camp out during the week. They would come back needing all kinds of touching up and fiberglass repair. Everyone from Stone,Woods & Cook to Connie Kalitta came through our shop, as well as all the local funny cars; Warlord, The Asassin, Showdown, etc. I either totally painted them or touched them up. My older brother had us do a lot of free paint jobs for drag racers that could not afford them because he admired their dedication to the sport, and many of them eventually made it big.”

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1969 340 ‘Cuda of Roger Wells with the paint job won at a Dragway 42 event in 1970. Photo courtesy of Cary Bacher

 

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The Hogan & Turner Willys with its very early Nolan Brothers paint, shown above in 1970 at Dragway 42. This car was also displayed at shows to help promote the shop. Below as it appeared at the Detroit Auto-Rama after being repainted (photo by Cary Bacher)

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Gapp & Roush Pro Stock Pinto with paint by Nolan Bros.

 

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A 2014 painting by Bobby Nolan of the Warlord Barracuda. The Wahlay Bros’ Warlord funny cars were among the most famous Nolan Bros paint jobs.

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Thanks to John Day for sending the photos above.

 

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Vic Miskow’s Chevy II in action at Norwalk Raceway Park

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Bob Hillman photo

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The following images were provided by Randy Smith

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Below is a vintage photo showing a 1969 Mach 1 custom painted as a new, unsold car for a Cleveland Ford dealership (David Mayher photo)

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Thank you to Robert Markowitz for these photos of the Nolan Bros. Pizza Gremlin

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Shown below is a 1971 AMC Javelin customized inside and out as a new car.

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A custom “AMX” made from the 1971 Javelin pictured above. Here it is shown for sale so it had been outfitted with an old set of wheels plus the stock side mirrors and a newer Javelin grille.The prototype Hurst AMX mentioned earlier was painted in a similar fashion, except it was black and gold.

 

Some history for the following photos of the “Bewitched” Camaro courtesy of Jim and Cindy Pruce:

“Cindy (Pruce) Vangor and Bob Futo bought a 1969 Z-28 Camaro in 1970, the last time it ever

saw the street.  I did the driving while Bob did the wrenching  In 1971 we took the car to Nolan

Brothers for a custom paint job in their 1st garage on Homeway Avenue in Cleveland.  We ran the

car in stock class at Dragway 42, Norwalk Raceway, Quaker City and Thompson until 1974.  In

1974 we made more serious modifications to the car’s motor and added a hood scoop and

fiberglass hood. Our second paint job was once again shot by Bobby at the  Nolan Brothers shop

then located on Chatfield Avenue.  They did fantastic work on the paint and the signature original

murals that were on the trunk lid.  After the paint job I went on to run AHRA Hot Rod Class

setting a National Record with an 11.40 ET at 121.29 mph.  At this time the car was equipped

with the original 302 engine, Super T10 4 speed, 750 Holley 4 barrel on a tunnel ram intake, Sig

Erson cam and a 5:38 gear.”

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Nolan Bros. customs were featured in a series of Sherwin-Williams advertisements. Thank you to Tom Benvie for the clean scans of these rare ads.

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The following photo from the 1973 Cleveland Auto-Rama provided by Stewart Maus

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Bobby Nolan continues, “We bought a small body shop on Depot Street in Berea, that was our last shop.We moved from Chatfield because the landlord there would never improve the heating for the winter. There were now years when we were swamped with Cadillac superfly limo work, then 2-seat Thunderbird work. My older brother Jack was diabetic and could not be as involved all the time, plus there was the turnover of employees who would run off with my famous racer friends on Fridays, then come back on Tuesdays. There were the years of major car downsizing because of gas prices, and suddenly we had diesel Cadillacs and Olds 98’s in the shop. The muscle car Camaros and Mustangs started rusting out after three years.

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“By the 1980s times were changing. A former customer got me involved with my fiberglass molding abilities to prototype toys for a large company in Cleveland. I used a fiberglass gelcoat procedure all through my toy building days that I picked up from “Big Daddy” Ed Roth when he visited our Chatfield shop. Now I was working on Big Wheels type toys along with sandboxes and playhouses. This was great, I could do this all by myself and it was back to the low overhead, backyard shop. I still painted but now went to the car owner’s shop, these cars were for former customers and racers. Eventually I moved to Mississippi and for 23 years worked for myself in toys and mural painting. My brother passed on a few years ago but I still paint and have done everything from cars to huge murals of the universe on skate centers and movie theatre walls throughout the south. I have recently moved to Nashville and after my son ran across a book on funny cars that mentioned our paint jobs (written by John Shapiro of Cruisin’ Times Magazine) I have been reconnecting with old friends at get togethers in Cleveland and Christmas parties at Xtreme Performance in North Ridgeville.”

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If you have photos of a Nolan Brothers custom painted vehicle please submit copies for this page!